Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Over the Hill

I had a list of stuff that I needed to get done today but decided to head out over the hill for a couple geocaches before the forecast / threatened / promised (choose one) rain arrives. Had some clouds off to the northwest, but there was some sunlight shining on Fountain Hills in the distance.

This area is part of the Tonto National Forest. There's a shooting range south of here, but apparently some folks can't resist using a sign for "target" practice.

The sun was just coming up, leaving long shadows. Red Mountain was just poking up on the western horizon.

Part of the time I was following game trails, part of the time I was following a section of the Maricopa trail or other bike trails. Lots of trails but I had the place to myself.

I always love watching the light change on Red Mountain in the morning. With all the clouds, it wasn't as spectacular as it sometimes is, but it's still special.

Managed to find the two geocaches I was looking for before heading off to take care of business.

Because I'm officially over the hill now (at least one of them) I had the privilege of spending five hours today doing all the paperwork for a new drivers license. The place was nearly empty when I started this morning, but that was because their computer system was down. Two hours later the place was full.

At least I wasn't in the line that wrapped around the Justice Court building. Apparently everyone else in town had traffic fines to pay.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Closed Doors

We intentionally elected to go wandering on our own in both Antigua, Guatemala and Cartagena, Columbia. When I looked through my pictures, they're the only cities where I had 'door' pictures. I really liked the doors and the associated hardware. Some were  in excellent condition, others not so much.

Sometimes the door knockers were the only interesting part. Many of them were mounted high on the door so that they could be reached by a person on horseback.

Almost every set of doors had a smaller door or doors within the doors. The fancier places had more unusual shapes to the inner door.

The first three door pictures were from Guatemala. The remainder are from Columbia.

The cathedral still had Christmas lights.

As I examined various doors, I assumed the sometimes fancy 'washers' were retained by large rivets to hold the door planks to cross framing behind the door. Then I spotted this door which blew my theory to smithereens. The door still stands but every single through fastener has been removed.

In any case, it was nice to see that I wasn't the only one who thought the doors were picturesque.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Old Stuff and Fun Stuff

We made two port stops in Mexico on our way south. We'd flown to Puerto Vallarta years ago and the view of Walmart from the port was not awe inspiring. Huatulco was a small port that was scheduled to have 38 cruise ship visits this year. Of course, the day we were there, there were two ships in port!

The town wasn't anything special, but they had some beautiful pocket bays. Playa el Violin was part of a conservation area and was totally deserted when I visited.

As we planned for our trip, my thoughts and reading were centered around the Panama Canal. We'd reviewed the list of ports, but frankly, I gave very little thought to the history of the places we would visit. That volcanoes would greet us in Guatemala was not a surprise.

Antigua, Guatemala is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. "Founded in the early 16th century, Antigua was the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala and its cultural, economic, religious, political and educational centre until a devastating earthquake in 1773. Its principal monuments have been preserved largely as ruins and are an excellent example of Spanish colonial architecture."

Even the newer architecture was old for this west coast guy. I loved the yellow color. This town was full of churches - some just ruins but many others still in use. This building had been a convent. The arch was designed to allow the nuns to cross the street without going outside.

This was my favorite church in Antigua. Turns out, the sister of a friend now lives in an apartment directly behind this church. Small world!

The cathedral in Leon, Nicaragua was large and imposing, but wasn't yellow so it lost points.

This church was very popular with the pigeons! I was trying to get a picture of the statue holding up the beam and didn't really notice the birds until later.

The tour included a tour of the roof so I was able to get a closer picture of the statue (and BJ).
In Costa Rica we decided to ignore history or coffee and go for the gusto. We didn't realize that our choice rated as one of National Geographic's Top Ten Adventures in 2015

All suited up and ready to go. We would enjoy an open air tram up the mountain,

and ten zip lines back down. It really was LOTS of fun.

We didn't stop in Panama but took most of the day transiting the canal. Our next port was Cartagena, Columbia. This place was a mixture of incredible history and historic structures and a tropical, metropolitan city. Once the headquarters of the Spanish fleet, the town withstood numerous attacks.

The fortifications were impressive.

Once again, yellow was predominate as were the churches.

The narrow streets made it impossible to get the pictures I wanted. I'm thinking a drone would have been handy.

As we traveled through some of these historic cities, I fell in love with the doors, to the point that the next blog post will be nothing but doors!

Last stop before our arrival in Fort Lauderdale was Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. The island is owned by CCL, the corporate parent of Holland America, Carnival, Princess, Cunard, P&O, and others.

The sign says it all!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Ocean to Ocean

Now and then we get a hankering to do a cruise. About a year ago, I agreed to accept spam from one of the large travel agencies specializing in cruises. I'm way too much of a cheapskate to be willing to pay the list prices the cruise lines ask, but started watching the "90 day" list when prices drop on unsold inventory. Got a deal on a Holland America cruise that fit our schedule, departing out of San Diego.

Once we got the cattle call, i.e. life boat drill, out of the way, we resumed wandering around the ship, getting some sense of the layout.

Found a spot up on the Lido deck where we could get a selfie as the sun started to set on San Diego.

One of our favorite spots on the ship was early morning walks on the promenade. If you waited another hour, the decks were dry after their daily washdown, but it felt like trying to walk a busy city sidewalk. Earlier was better!

Our other favorite spot was the dining room!
What can I say?

Turns out, we had a very similar itinerary to the Island Princess, a larger ship that could (and did) totally hide our ship.

I've dreamed for years of transiting the Panama Canal. The dream started in grade school history and continued when I realized that one of my ancestors had walked the isthmus before the canal was built.

I found the canal to be very interesting, especially after a recent reading of Path Between the Seas by David McCollough. Thanks for the recommendation, Ian.
Sometimes it pays to wait til the last minute for a bargain. In this case, it worked out that our anniversary was the day that we passed through the canal. We even got a card from the Captain and crew. I'm still not sure who let the cat out of the bag.

Fifteen days and seven countries after we started, we disembarked in Fort Lauderdale along with five other ships, including the Island Princess. Now the only question is where to next time? (And how soon can I lose the weight I gained?)